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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

The MoJ updates its strategy

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Refreshed single departmental plan has 4 stripped down objectives: Provide a prison and probation service that reforms offenders; Deliver a modern courts and justice system; Promote a global Britain and the rule of law; and Transform the department.

What are justice priorities?

The MoJ has just (23 May 2018) updated its single departmental plan. The new version of the 5 year plan originally published in February 2016 is somewhat more direct in tone, reflecting new ministers’ “back to basics” language. It also reveals how little progress the MoJ has made in tackling the poorly performing prisons and probation services over the last two years. Below I pick out some key aspects of the plan which is formulated mainly in bullet point form. The plan provides a handy resource as it also lists lead ministers and officials for the four primary objectives:

  1. Provide a prison and probation service that reforms offenders

  2. Deliver a modern courts and justice system

  3. Promote a global Britain and the rule of law

  4. Transform the department 

Here’s the introduction in full:

The Secretary of State’s priorities in 2018/19 are to:

  • Get the basics right by providing decent, safe and modern prisons that tackle criminal activity and drug abuse, whilst providing strong incentives for prisoners to reform.

  • Ensure a sustainable prison population by exploring options for, and building confidence in, non-custodial sentences and by tackling reoffending though a cross-government approach.

  • Promote the rule of law, champion our independent, world-class judiciary, and provide an effective and fair justice system which serves all users, whenever they need it.

  • Ensure growth and readiness for leaving the EU by seeking the best possible outcome from EU Exit negotiations and ensuring that English law and courts remain a primary choice for international businesses.

  • Maintain a continued tight grip of departmental finances.

These priorities build on the department’s existing strategic objectives which are to provide a prison and probation service that reforms offenders, deliver a modern courts and justice system, promote a global Britain and the rule of law, and transform the department.

This plan sets out how we will deliver these priorities.

Prisons

There are three main aims under the prisons section:

  1. Get the basics right in prisons – focusing on increasing staff numbers, providing better conditions, reducing drugs, building more “modern spaces in prisons” and rolling out OMIC (the new offender management in custody model).
  2. Ensure a sustainable prison population – building confidence in community sentences, making better use of ROTL and introducing a “robust, scalable and flexible” electronic tagging system.
  3. Tackling reoffending through a cross-government approach – this includes improving skills, accommodation and health provision, devolving more of justice to PCCs and implementing Lammy. 

A modern courts and justice system

There are four main aims here:

  1. Provide a fair and effective justice system — mainly modernisation and digitisation.
  2. Improve the experience of victims — a range of already announced initiatives including a better, fairer compensation system for victims of violent crime.
  3. Champion our world-class judiciary —this acknowledges problems around diversity and recruitment.
  4. Better outcomes for children, families and vulnerable adults — mainly a focus om improving the family justice system.

Promote a global Britain and the rule of law

This section is basically about dealing with the Brexit fallout.

Transform the department

This section can be boiled down to: make more cuts, try to generate more income and be more diverse.

Cinderella probation

The plan also includes details of the MoJ’s “Departmental Expenditure Limit” which is £7.5 billion.

Regular readers will be unsurprised by the continuing lack of focus on the traumatised probation service; the sole (out of a total of 65) objective which mentions the probation service is:

 

Improve outcomes for offenders under probation supervision by improving the quality and consistency of community sentence requirements

 

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